Our immune systems have the capacity to fight many of what today are considered chronic conditions. Yet, unless there’s an appropriate teaching exercise to train immunity toward a specific disease, cancers and other deadly maladies continue spreading unimpeded. There have been serious attempts at developing immunotherapy techniques that condition the body to fight off diseases, but success has been limited. Now researchers at Johns Hopkins are reporting the development of a new device for training large quantities of T cells targeted toward attacking a specific disease.
The researchers harnessed artificial antigen-presenting cells (aAPCs), themselves developed in the same lab, which can be used to give guidance to T cells on how to attack various pathogens. The team harvested native T cells from whole blood and used the new device, which has a magnetic column, to bring these cells into proximity with the aAPCs. Since the aAPCs are themselves magnetic, the resulting combinations of the two kinds of cells then stuck to the column wall while unpaired cells passed right through. The T cells that were activated by the aAPCs were then harvested and multiplied thousands of times. The technique worked with a single antigen as well as multiple ones, pointing to its ability to address mutations that help tumors avoid the immune system.
The researchers envision the technology being used to prep the body to attack diseases, particularly cancer in patients that are missing tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in their blood.
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